February 9, 2019

A Bit Seedy

So, 2 weeks ago I got all of my seeds organized. It was good and bit overwhelming, I’ll be honest! I have so many! More than 70 varieties, just counting the flowers—not herbs, or vegetables. I am determined to be surrounded by flowers for the entire growing season this year!

Not ALL of those are completely different types, you understand. I went a little crazy with buying poppies and at least 10 of those packets are several different varieties of poppy seeds. I’ve got 4 or 5 rudbeckia, probably that many echinacea, handfuls of this and one or two of that. About half of them are perennials—the flowers that are supposed to come back every year—and if I can just get them to grow, just think how much money I will save this year! (Instead of going to the plant nursery and buying theirs, I mean!)

I bought some to fill out our home landscaping—the various flowerbeds around. A large percentage are for cut flower production, of course, and the rest…? A whim? Momentary seed madness? It’s hard to say, really. If I successfully grow every single seed in those packets, I will be swimming in flowers! Mwah-ha-ha-ha! Ahem, where was I? Oh yes. As I was saying, there are at least 5 more I NEED. Ammi (False Queen Anne’s Lace), 2 types of snapdragons, and 2 types of sunflowers. And then I’ll be done. Probably. For now.

No, for real though. I plan to get my Nurseryman’s license this spring, which will allow me to sell plant starts for people to put in their own gardens. So, I guess I figure that I’ll either make room for them here, or sell the babies on to other people. Nice work, if you can get it.

Are you Ready to Organize Your Seeds?

  1. Find your frost zone. The USDA has a nifty interactive map you can use here. Take note of this zone. Ours is zone 5b. Many of the plants you buy will say something about “winter hardy to zone 4,” for example. The zones get warmer as the numbers get higher, so in general, you want to buy things that will live in your zone, or colder. This is especially helpful if you’re buying perennial seeds, because if you go to all that trouble to start them from seed they had better last through their first winter outside!
  2. Next, find your last spring frost date, first fall frost date, and figure out the estimated length of your growing season, in days. Our growing season here in zone 5b is medium length, at approximately 113 days. You can google “first and last freeze dates by zipcode.” Several different sites will come up that provide this. This is good information to help you figure out how early to start your seeds. Most of the flowers I’m growing will need longer than our usual summer to grow up and produce flowers for me.
  3. Many seed packets very kindly note how many weeks “before last frost” that you should start the seeds indoors, usually with a range. For example, it might say start 6-8 weeks before last frost. Unless it’s something that germinates very quickly, like zinnias, I usually go for the longer number of weeks, because the countdown toward “Days to Maturity” doesn’t start until germination. Many of these seeds take a week or two to germinate—or more. Safe side, you know.
  4. Count back on your calender from your last frost date the appropriate number of weeks. Mark down what you should be starting then—or like I did, put the seed packets in groups based on when they should be started.
  5. As far as timing goes, the final thing to look at is if they needed any special treatment prior to sowing. Some might need to be put in the fridge for 2 weeks, or soak in water overnight, etc.. If it’s more than a day or two, get that date on your calendar as well—or bump your seed packets to an earlier sowing date in the old shoebox!
  6. Get your seed starting equipment ready to go BEFORE that date rolls around. :)

Got it? Clear as mud? Feel free to comment with any questions!

So now my seedbox is neatly organized. I’ve got all the seeds that are supposed to be direct sown in “very early spring, as soon as the soil can be worked” in a bag. I’ve got all the ones to start inside put in my nifty little baby shoe-box (the baby is now 9 years old), with yellow notepaper sticking up to tell me the date that they need to be started.

The reason all this matters? If you start them too early, they’ll get long and leggy under your lights before the weather is warm enough to get them outside and into the ground. The leggy ones don’t usually fare as well. Too late? Well, you may not get flowers at all if they’re some of types that need a really long growing season to produce.

With all of that, there were only a few I started with this very week: hostas and sweet peas.

Let the seed-starting adventures begin!

Hostas ‘New Hybrids Mix,’ because everything I read about growing them from seed said that they take a very long time—months even—for the little darlings to grow big enough to plant outside. Hostas are so easy to divide and increase your stock that way—if you already have hostas, just do that instead! I don’t have any growing here yet, and they are SO expensive to buy from the nursery! So this is kind of just for fun, to see if I can get any to grow. I have nothing to lose. According to the scanty sources I could find, the seeds germinate much better after soaking them in water, in the refrigerator, for 2 weeks first. So the hosta seeds are currently in the fridge!

Secondly, I started sweet peas. I had a baggie of quite a few that I had saved from my Washington garden, and another unopened packet from last year. These, I read, you are supposed to soak in lukewarm water for 24 hours prior to sowing. You may wonder why I jumped on this so early—after all it has been snowing all week here! So, despite the fact that you can direct seed these guys outside, I wanted to get some started, so that when that elusive “very early spring/late winter” day arrives—I’m thinking mid-March—I’ll have some ready to transplant and some seeds to put directly in the ground. The recommendation was to start them indoors 4-6 weeks before you aim to plant them out….which would be now. So here we are. I’m starting the saved ones and will directly sow the seeds from the packet.

The square pots were a little bigger than the standard 4 inchers, so they each hold 4 seeds, while the pots in the middle all hold 2-3 seeds each. This is a tray of approximately 40 seeds right here!

I’m laughing at myself, though. I failed to count those saved sweet pea seeds. I estimated (very badly, as it turned out) that I had around 50 seeds. Even 3 to a pot, my seeds were not diminishing much at 50! Friends, there were almost 200 seeds!! Hoo boy! I have been scrounging for 4-inch pots to put them in. 

I’ve called 2 of my gardening neighbors and begged for pots and I have used every last one of my own I could get my hands on. 200! I guess we’re doing sweet peas in a big way this year!

Are you planning to start any seeds this year?

If not, do you want to buy some starts? HA! If the rest of my seed-starting goes like the sweet peas, I should have quite a selection to offer! :)

Happy seed packet dreaming—I mean, organizing!

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